The Non-Conscious Learning Environment
Teachers spend hours each week planning, perfecting and implementing their lesson plans. Entire classes are taught about this task alone, and yet much of student learning happens outside the planned lesson.
We know that what a student sees, and how they see it plays an important role in their education. Sometimes though, what we remember the most, what makes the biggest impression on our memory is what goes on around us, things we may not even be aware we are absorbing.
Our subconscious is a powerful tool. As teachers if we can learn to capitalize on this, and learn to utilize it in our teaching, we will have one more avenue towards helping our students be academically successful.
Some Learning is Automatic
According to Jensen (2008) researchers have found that more than 99% of all learning is non-conscious. Our brains never shut down, they are constantly aware of what is going on around us, even if we aren't.
Its for this reason that we need to be aware of what we have around our classroom that may influence the students learning. Visuals, smells, sounds, and movements all will be noticed, if not consciously, then subconsciously.
Some lessons are learned best when they just happen. Think about when you have students work in groups. While you "plan" on having them accomplish a specific project, they are also learning valuable skills in learning to work together in a group, problem solving skills, leadership skills and more. What they learn automatically, or subconsciously would be very hard to replicate in a structured environment.
The Power of Non-Conscious Learning
Jensen (2008) defines non-conscious as anything we do not pay attention to in the present moment. There are 3 key principals that explain this type of learning.
1. Acknowledge the mind's enormous capacity for reception.
- While we can train our brains to focus primary attention on items of our choice, it is much harder, perhaps nearly impossible to train our brains to completely ignore our surroundings.
- As teachers we need to be aware that student brains will constantly be soaking in what we are wearing, what our body language is saying, and what attitude we are expressing.
2. Categorize the value of visuals, music, stories, myth, metaphor, and movement.
- While we know there is value in each of these areas, we are still learning how exactly our brains code, symbolize, generalize and multi-process the information and stimuli they provide.
3. Address perceptions, biases, and barriers before learning.
- While we may not see something as important enough to address, it may be the things that prevents our students from learning. The perfume we are wearing, the outfit we have on, the lights in our classroom, can all turn out to be the most important barriers for our students.
More on Suggestion
As teachers we need to remember that everything we say makes a difference. It can make a positive difference, or a negative difference. Work to keep a positive and all-inclusive tone to your messages. Simple changes from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays
Teaching Tips for Optimizing Non-Conscious Learning
Realizing that our student's brains are constantly gathering information, both consciously and non-consciously we also must recognize the need for our students to have time to process all that their brains are absorbing.
Trying to achieve a balance of suggesting, asking and telling our students what we want from them is important. Making sure our students don't resist or resent our attempts at leaderships, while at the same time making sure they don't leave our classroom confused or frustrated by lack of instruction.
The subconscious is a powerful tool. If we as teachers ignore the value of this we can quickly see all we work at teaching disappear, if we learn to use it, we can more than double the learning opportunities presented to our students.